Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Off-season goals

I live a goal-driven life. I set goals, I accomplish them, repeat. It's only natural that I already have my 2013 running year planned out, and I have clear off-season goals:

1. Lose 5 pounds. I'm down 11 since June and five more will take me to the lowest weight of my adult life. Hal says runners do better when lighter. I'll test the idea :)

2. Stop the 9&1 running-walking pattern. My normal 4.85 route has become easy to run without any walking. I need to keep upping the distances.

3. Run faster!!! I know I need to go to the track and force myself to run short fast repetitions. I'm dreading it. Every training run in November has been significantly under 10:00 average pace.

4. Strengthen my core.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The problem with moderation

I seem to have a problem with moderation. It all started with the Mizunos. It made no sense whatsoever to buy one pair when the price was right and I knew they were the best running shoes in the world. I figured I would stock up when the price and quantity were right. This picture is old - there are ONLY five new pairs left! >:(

That logic seems to have spread to food. My Kroger stopped selling the good salsa, so when I was at a different location and they had it, I bought every jar. Same with the gel bites. Kroger usually charges $1.89, but occasionally they go on sale for $1 a pack. Last time I saw that price, I bought both boxes of the flavors I use (15 envelopes per box). I like what I like :D

It should go without say that I buy my cereal from Amazon six boxes at a time.

Speaking of moderation problems, here is part of the shoe collection. In my own defense, I've had the same size foot since middle school so I've been accumulating the collection over 20 years and I haven't really bought any since my favorite shoe store in Milford closed years ago. Brands that are extremely comfortable: Franco Sarto, Bernie Mev, Kenneth Cole Reaction, Caparros, Medici.

Marathoning is a moderation problem as well. I don't do one or two a year, noooooo I did 5 this year and planned 4 spring, 2 fall, and the Goofy for 2013. Two are still in the decision phase, as is a 50k. Why do one when I can do four in four weeks???

Yeah, I'm pretty much set in my ways :)

And this is just a funny picture. A Flat Stanley came to visit from San Antonio. I took him home so I could take him as my date to a Tigers game. I came home from work and he had gotten into the fridge....

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Nice emails

I've gotten a ton of really nice emails over the year. Here are a few:

Way back in April I commented on Nita's blog:

I've always taken significant time off between marathons (like, a year lol) so I restart with the "couch potato to 5K program." It's ridiculously easy but a nice transition from casual exercise to focused running. 
My spring marathon is tomorrow and I'm def feeling the pre-race jitters, not even about the running, but about the darn weather! I run TERRIBLY when it's cloudy and the forecast is 98% cloud cover :(

She responded:
I love that you do that. We want to enjoy running INJURY free!! It takes a lot of discipline and sometimes burying our pride to start at the beginning. But I believe you are on to something good..Sometimes we should go back a little farther to move forward a lot better!!1
I am soo sorry about your marathon tomorrow...We are supposed to get thunderstorms and I have a 10k on Sunday...I am still praying...I will be praying for you too! DO not CLAIM a terrible run for yourself...YOU stay firm on YOUR TRAINING..and not the weather. You have trained too hard to let "Mother Nature" steal your Victory!!!
After the Free Press debacle of running with a head cold, from someone who actually has completed a 4:33 marathon:
"Congrats on the marathon! You did it under circumstances that others would have just quit. You should be proud :)"
And from an Ironman:
"Sorry to hear, but good for you for sticking it out! That's a far more rare quality than even being a marathon runner!"
From a woman I used to work with:
"Congratulations on finishing the Detroit Marathon. That is a great accomplishment. Think about yourself 5 years ago. Would you have thought you would be attempting a marathon and finishing it (And not in last place!) I really appreciate the motivation you have given me these last few months. As I see your determination, it makes me stick with my walking and swimming. Keep it up."
For a few weeks in the summer, it seemed like EVERY part of  my body hurt. Both my heels hurt, my right arch was sore, right quad was tight and sore, my left hip was really sore every time I ran, my shin hurt where it had stress fractured in 2011, then my lower back felt stiff and nothing helped. 
I emailed my friend, "Right now I'd be happy to break 5 hours. I don't think my body is built for punishing runs like this."
He responded "I don't think 99.9% of peoples body is meant to run a 26.2 miler - it's an oddity. It isn't normal."
Hah! Always a good reminder :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Race withdrawal

October 21 was written on my running calendar, circled in red pen, burned into my mind as my focus point from January 1st through the entire summer until it was finished. We all know how that race ended. 13 measly seconds :(

All my determination and focus shifted to the Indianapolis race, then to Columbia City. There was always something there, something I was working towards, a definite goal.

Then I finally broke 5 hours, and while I'm super thrilled about it...now what...? Last week and especially last weekend were weird. I didn't have a race to look forward to, nowhere to drive, no trip to pack for, no special trips to the grocery store for pre-race food. I'm going through race withdrawals here!!!!!

I ran on Saturday, just because I don't know what to do with my Saturdays if I'm not running. I certainly didn't have to, and my legs were fatigued at 5 miles, but after the 5th marathon I started to actually enjoy running!!!!! Now I'm addicted!!! lol

The secretary at one of my schools is a runner and she thinks I'm crazy to do consecutive marathons, but it works for me. I get my body in shape, then maintain that level for a few weeks and do as many races as are feasible to take advantage of my fitness. I seem to heal better and faster every time, so it works for me.

But now. The Martian is FIVE MONTHS AWAY!!!!! Bah!!!! Yes, the amount of time to wait is awful, but even moreso is knowing I'll lose some of my fitness between now and then and have to rebuild it. Maintaining fitness is so much easier than building, but I can't maintain through the 2014 Goofy. I need to let my body regress a little and heal.

I looked online for yet another marathon, but there aren't any within driving distance until April. Gonna be a long winter :(

Thursday, November 15, 2012

This is funny

Before the Monumental Marathon, my friend took a self-portrait at the starting line. Unbeknownst to him, I was lurking in the corner of the photo frame, totally ruining the picture.

Yeah, I have a singular focus - work, you stupid iPod!!!!!! haha I don't care about my water, about my heat blanket, nothing but the dead iPod!
Here's a much less funny picture :(

Please reconsider!!!!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Columbia City :)

Breaking 5 hours is the primary reason I loved the Veterans Marathon. Even aside from that, however, there was a lot to like!!!

Parking was free and abundant! I parked 1 block from the start / finish line so it was no trouble to get my camera after I finished.

A church served hot homemade soup at the finish line. When I tried to make a donation, they said they weren't accepting donations from runners :)

Rather than a crappy shirt full of sponsor logos, participants each got a jacket, polyester on the outside, fleece on the inside. It's men's sizing, so the sleeves are long enough!!!! Easily the nicest gear I've ever gotten at a race.

The Y was open for post-race showers.

I generally drink water and/or Gatorade from every table, yet there were SO MANY fluid stations that I passed by several without stopping. Most of them had bananas, oranges, Gu - more than anyone would need or want.

Every church on the route, and the VFW were open so runners could use the restrooms.

It was NOT an out and back route. 

Packet pickup was in a tent!!!! I'm used to pick ups at places like Cobo Hall or the Indiana Convention Center. This was great though because I walked in, got my stuff and left. No crowds to dodge :)

Sitting on the ground at the finish line. Look carefully - there is the slightest DOWNHILL at the finish :) and yes, that's a tank under the street light.

I talked with Lauren before the start of the race. She is one of the teachers from West Bloomfield (less than an hour from my home) who had arranged to run New York as a fund raiser to fight bullying, but when the race was cancelled, they decided to run the Veterans Marathon instead. I saw her a few times on the course, then again at the finish. I said it was a great race and I really enjoyed it, but I doubted I would be back in 2013 due to the monster hills.

60 hours later.....

I liked the small town feeling, I enjoyed talking to an elderly woman while I was doing pre-race yoga accompanied by Axl Rose's wailing "Welcome to the Jungle." Despite the hills and the wind, I REALLY liked the race. Registration two days beforehand was cheaper than early registration for a big race, so if the forecast is good, I'll be there :D

Due to the number of participants, I was expecting a duplicate of the Martian, but the Veterans race was GREAT! It didn't have the mind-numbing boredom of doing an out an back on a closed course. I was alone for 92% of the race, but I train that way, so it was totally fine. In fact, I'd rather be alone than be at mile 8 and see people run past me at mile 17.

Sign at the side of the road at mile 16: It's not if you can, but if you will.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

6th time is the charm

"She had an idea. She knew immediately it was a bad idea, but once it was there it was like a challenge. She couldn't not do it...'Bridget is single-minded in achieving her goals,' Dr. Lambert had written. 'Single-minded to the point of recklessness.'" (Brashares, Ann, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, 184-185.)

At the start of the year I wrote down my three goals and posted them on the wall by the front door:
1. Finish grad school
2. Run the Martian marathon in 5:00
3. Run the Free Press marathon in 4:33

Eleven months into the year, I STILL hadn't broken five hours and I was obsessed with it! I know in the grand scheme it doesn't mean anything, none of my friends or family care about me any more or any less if I break 5 hours, but it mattered to me!!!!!!

I had trained all winter, all summer and it was still 8 minutes out of reach. I knew if I didn't hit the time, my whole running year would have felt like a waste of time and effort and I would have been disappointed, regardless of finishing 4 marathons - 1 in the hail, 1 in freezing cold, 1 with a head cold and 1 with the flu. None of that mattered though - I wanted my time to start with a 4!!!!!!!

Free gloves!!!!
There was one last chance within driving distance - the Veterans Marathon in Columbia City, Indiana near Fort Wayne. Making the decision itself was a catch-22. If I didn't try, I would regret wasting the opportunity. If I tried and failed to PR, I would regret it. There was the slight chance, however, that I could do it. I knew my legs contained a sub 5-hour finish and I had to try!!! Surely God wouldn't give me a freak illness for a THIRD time, would He?

I've always done large marathons and I knew this was a small one. What I didn't know was that it was in small town Americana! I love small town Americana!!!! It seemed like the whole community showed up for the "worst parade ever." Men were dressed as historical characters, the high school marching band played before the start, the start was a cannon shot in the middle of the road, a crane leaned over the start, from which dangled the American flag, historic planes flew over the course twice. It was great!!!

My iPod was charged (and working!) and I tried to not obsess over the mile splits. I didn't try to force myself to slow down when the first two miles were sub 10-minutes. I trusted my training and did what felt right to my legs. The first 6 miles were completed in 1 hour exactly. I hit the half timing mat at 2:18 and started crying. "This is going to happen!" I told myself. "Don't #%ck up the second half and it'll happen!!!!!"

Unfortunately I had read a question and answer ahead of time on the discussion forum. A runner asked if it really was that hilly. The response was "YES and the wind blowing across the fields in the second half is BRUTAL!" My reaction was:
"La la la la la I can't hear you!"
Yes, it was that bad. The second half was ALL hills and really windy. Then I realized - all the running I had done after the Free Press was somehow ALWAYS into the wind - it was obviously to prepare me for this!!! Mind over matter, just don't think about it.

Step by step I kept going and every time I checked my watch and did the math, I was still on pace!!!

I got into mile 26 and saw two high school kids sitting on the curb. "It's at the second light," one promised me. My side was cramping, but I couldn't stop. I had "Lose Yourself" on repeat for the last mile and Eminem's inspiring words kept echoing through my ears and my spirit "Success is my only motherf#@!ing option, failure is not." I just kept going.

I was cruising the last 0.2 miles. I wanted to slow down and savor the moments, knowing IT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN!!!! but my legs were flying and why would I ever stop that???

4:58:09 baby!!!!!!! I collected my medal then stepped off the course, laid down on the street and sobbed like a little girl.

FINALLY!!!!!! From a technical standpoint, it was the most difficult race I've ever tried and I did it!!!! I can relax now with the 5-hour monkey off my back.

In analyzing the time, I averaged 10:33 for the first half. It ballooned to 12:14 for the second, but no matter. I PRed by 10:27 :)

"Marathoning is more than a physical activity. It's a state of mind that says anything is possible!"

Thursday, November 8, 2012


After Saturday's marathon, I laid down and closed my eyes for a few minutes while my friend showered and packed. My end of the conversations sounded a lot like this:

"I'm really disappointed with the race. Why can't I do a 5-hour marathon? I tried soooo hard and worked on it all summer and I can't do it!!! It's so frustrating and disappointing."

Later in the car, I was still bummed.

"It's like ballet all over again. It's like marching band part 2. I studied ballet for years and years and got into the best class in the best school in southeast Michigan, but I was, like, the worst person in the class. Band was the same thing. It was so much work! Yeah, I was part of a state winning group, but I had to do so much work to be one of the worst people. It was never natural. Why do I keep choosing activities that are so hard for me?"

It's a good question. I seem to keep picking hobbies for which I don't have a natural talent. I can get to the highest level through hard work, but I'm never good and it's sooooo frustrating. Why am I not picking activities for which I have a natural affinity?

Immediately after the race I was pretty accepting that a 4:33 or a PR just wasn't many to be this year, but I was still bummed. On Sunday I was even more bummed and complained a little to my friend via email.

He responded:
"Just remember, with ALL that was thrown at you, ALL that shit, you STILL made it through.  You still slayed the "I'm quitting" demon and pushed and pushed through it.  I'm very proud - and envious - of you!"
"I think I would feel defeated as well.  But I still feel you did a great job and you did something I could not have done - ESPECIALLY in the sleet and rain.  come on mother nature - seriously? seriously?"

Even Hal Higdon agrees with my friend. He says your friends don't care how you placed, they don't care if you set a personal record. They just care that you finished.

For a few days I slept with the medal right next to my bed, the only time I've slept with a medal. It represented the hardest run I've ever done, but it also represented that maybe I can't do everything I want to. What a horrible realization. 

I saw something online that I'm trying to internalize:
Dead last is greater than did not finish, which trumps did not start.
I'm not dead last though, I finished ahead of 100+ runners in Indianapolis, even with how awful I felt. Why can't that be good enough?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

"I want to shake his Nerds"

I provided the clue 6 for my last-minute marathon. It was a percentage, which means I've now marathoned in 6 percent of the states after finishing the Monumental marathon in Indianapolis.

When my friend and I registered, the forecast was 68 and sunny. It got progressively worse every time I looked and it was a rough race. It was the hardest marathon I've finished, even more difficult than the 2010 Free Press when I was woefully unprepared and got through on grit and foolishness.

It was close to a 5-hour drive and I found out my friend doesn't like disco music. What??? What good is xm radio if we can't jam to channel 7? The expo was nice enough, shirts are nice enough, but those were far from priorities. My priorities were clear: a 4:33 finish OR break 5 hours OR at the very least, a new PR, which would be 5:07.

I slept TERRIBLY on Friday. Actually I'm not sure I ever fell asleep. I might have just rested my eyes all night. Saturday morning I was out of bed at 5am and ate my normal pre-race breakfast of a MetRX meal replacement bar and a "Mexican Coke." Just before leaving the hotel I had the worst premonition "I think I need to throw up." Less than a minute later, I lost my breakfast, my Friday dinner, and any energy I had. I was completely lethargic driving to the starting line and didn't even want to leave the car. My friend was running the half and set up text alerts on me, so he knew when I reached the half, and the 30k marks. I warned him if he didn't get updates, to look for me in the medical tent.

It was cold in the morning - not even 40 degrees, but I was HOT. That was disconcerting. Much worse was that my iPod refused to work!!! ARRRRRGGGGHHHHH! Every single training run for 3+ years has been to "the ultimate 4-hour cardio playmix" and I have to run 26 miles without it? Help!!! Friend offered me his, but without MY playlist, it was a nice offer, but not what I needed.

I had no food in my stomach, no energy at all, but I had paid for the race and driven 5 hours to do it, so I set off. I met up with the 5-hour pace group, led by Jenny. She was great!!!! But the group was a little big for me. A few runners ahead was a woman with a bib on her back "Pace team 5:00 Chris." I jogged up alongside her in mile 3. "Hi Chris. I'm Michelle," I said, then never stopped chatting.

She was running her first full marathon after losing 100+ pounds. She was AMAZING! We were running easily for about 12 miles and they were passing really quickly, then I slammed into the wall and I felt like I couldn't go another step. She never left my side for 23+ miles, giving up her 5:00 pace to stay with me and make sure I finished. Without Chris by my side, there's no way I would have gotten through it. I wasn't even breathing hard, I just had NO ENERGY, but she wouldn't even let me entertain thoughts of quitting.

When I was too tired to talk, she told me about her kids, about races she's done in the past, why she wanted to do a full marathon. My body never recovered from barfing in the morning, but my mind revived a little and we had some serious giggles. We were doing a run - walk strategy, so we kept passing and being passed by the same people for the second half. One man had candy in the water bottles on his holster - Nerds on one side, Skittles on the other. At one point, Chris said we have to catch up to him. "I want to shake his Nerds," she announced. I thought it was HILARIOUS. Every time we passed "Candyman" after that, we told each other we needed to shake his Nerds lol lol

Around mile 14 it started HAILING!!! Then it turned into a very steady rain. I was wearing a wet sweatshirt, but I knew my tech shirt underneath was also wet, and very thin, so I was going to be cold either way. I had two mismatched gloves - one solid black and one olive green with spiders on it - but Chris didn't have any. What's the easy solution? Pick up a pair someone had discarded on the course!!! We've all done it, right?

I'm laughing bc friend called me Kaufman - the name on my hoodie.
We got to mile 26 and saw my friend waiting for us. We turned left to the finish chute and both found a tiny reserve of energy to run to the finish, passing 5 or 6 people in the last 0.1 mile. I raised my arms at the finish, hugged Chris, then needed my friend's help walking to the car, shivering from cold.

A very hot shower and mini 10-minute nap later, my friend and I went out for dinner, both walking uncomfortably and wearing our medals. Yup, Chris and I were so awesome they gave us medals!!! :D Friend said my iPod died so as to meet her, that I missed a PR in Detroit so as to meet her, that it all happened for a reason. I could be pretty upset about the outcome of the race, but I just didn't have it in me on Saturday. The conditions were AWFUL and running 26 miles is near impossible when feeling well. Add in zero energy and a delicate stomach, and I owe the finish to my running angel.

She's from northern Indiana and she said we need to do it again, that she had so much fun running together. Her daughter wants to run the Free Press so she can run in Canada. I said how great Toledo was last year, so maybe we'll get to run together again. We can be "Team I want to shake his nerds."

ps: The course was nice - FLAT, the people were GREAT. Gold star to Indianapolis for a great race! The suckitude of weather and my stomach were beyond their control, obviously! At one point someone had put up signs with Indiana trivia - read a question, 40 paces later was the answer, so that was a good distraction. Numerous families were on the street with punch bowls of leftover Halloween candy to pass out. A woman was blasting the Rocky theme song in her front yard, another was playing "Chariots of Fire." Everyone was wonderful, especially Chris. THANK YOU for staying with me to the end.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

2012 - I'm not done with you yet

Over the summer I realized time and time again how much WORK goes in to preparing for a  marathon. I was already in really good shape when I started training for the Free Press and it was still really difficult. Before my cold, I felt like I possessed SuperWoman health. I was in the best health, and best shape of my entire life, so it seemed like a total waste to stop after the one race.

Even after the race, I refused to succumb to the cold because I knew the lung capacity I had been building all spring and summer would diminish quickly and I would pant after walking up the stairs, so even with a cold, I was still running. Hal says it's ok. He says the biggest risk is dehydration, that I wouldn't risk any serious problems.

Going as far back as August, I've been looking for another race while I'm in shape. The obvious option would have been to run Chicago, then let Detroit be the second one, but my training was designed around Detroit. Even if I sped up and modified the end of training, Chicago sold out in February.

So I looked online. I don't want to fly anywhere, but after the third week of October, there aren't many local options. Here are the best I could find, and I use the term generously:

The Veterans Marathon in northern Indiana.
Pro: 3 hour drive, nice jacket for participants, Saturday race.
Con: in 2011, 200 people finished the full. It's like the Martian all over again.

The Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis.
Pro: roughly 3500 expected in the full marathon, flat course, Saturday race.
Con: 5 hour drive.

The Inland Lake Marathon near Cleveland.
Pro: not terribly far.
Con: really small field, out and back course

The Bobcat Trail Marathon in central Ohio.
Pro: hydration stations have water, PB&J, pretzels, potato chips, candy, fruit, soda and Hammer Nutrition items.
Con: 90% trail running, only 10% on asphalt, presumably hilly since it's entirely within a state park.
Interesting: Runners have the option of an early start, but those who do so " will be necessary to bring a headlamp/flashlight as well as their own nutrition and hydration supplies."

I texted one of my friends over the weekend about the race I had in mind. I know I'm in shape, my cold will be better and my lungs will have cleared from my cough. Even so, I wanted someone to tell me "yes, this is in fact a GREAT idea!" Not only did I get that, friend offered to drive with me and run. Sweet!

One of the above races will be completed. As a hint, here's a clue: 6

See you at the finish line!